Reviewing thirty games is a mammoth task, which is precisely why this is not that. To give that many games the time they deserve to form fully rounded opinions of each, and then to aggregate those scores across the entirety of a collection to find some kind of average super score, it'd take hundreds of hours (and given the imbalance towards '80s and early '90s titles in Rare Replay, it'd skew the end result somewhat). This, then, is a review of the collection as a whole, and not a blow-by-blow account of each and every game within it.
First and foremost, this is a great collection and one that Rare fans will no doubt enjoy. The presentation is top notch, with players met by a Rarified theme tune when they first boot up, before being greeted by a lush series of menus that presents each game with a brief description and some background details. They're ordered chronologically, and scrolling through and playing them in order is just like taking a tour through video game history, with the offerings starting out very basic, before becoming more technologically and visually complicated as we advance through the years.
There's some great games in the collection, and while a few others left us feeling like they were best left in the past, relics of a bygone era, it's good that we've been given a slice of the studio's back catalogue that includes warts and all. Some of the early arcade games are solid and were innovative for their time, the opener - Jetpac - being a good case in point that still plays well enough today. Others don't stand the test of time so well and will be played once and then left well alone. The earliest of the games that feature were originally released back when Rare were still called Ultimate Play the Game, and thus the timeline means we're actually taking in more than thirty years of work (although it's being released to mark the 30th anniversary of the studio taking the name, Rare).
While there's some undoubted early highlights and amusing curios, it's around the time of Battletoads that things start getting really interesting. Before that we're talking about a collection that'll only really appeal to fans of the classics, those that have previously signed up for similarly arcane offerings by Sega, Namco and Capcom. That's not to say that there isn't merit to any of the early titles, Snake Rattle n Roll, R.C. Pro-Am, and Cobra Triangle are all still worth a look even after all these years; you might not play them for very long, but there's history here in abundance. Digger T. Rock was a particular highlight, being one of several games we'd not come across before and that we enjoyed discovering. Why Solar Jetman made the cut we're not too sure; it's a game that was developed by Zippo Games under the name Iota before later being rebranded and released by Rare.
As we move through the '80s and into the '90s we start to see more familiar faces. Battletoads, Blast Corps, Banjo-Kazooie, Perfect Dark. With the studio tasked with turning around the fortunes of the Kinect in recent years - games that didn't make it into this collection - it's easy to forget their considerable legacy (just as it's now easier to start getting excited about their new IP, Sea of Thieves, when you take in the fullness of their past works). Sure, some favourites - Goldeneye 007, Donkey Kong Country, Diddy Kong Racing - didn't make the collection due to various reasons (including licensing issues largely because of the studio's previous role at Nintendo before Microsoft bought them in the early 2000s), but there's plenty here besides, and importantly, the value proposition is fantastic.
If we had to say which game received the best update, we'd probably opt for Grabbed by the Ghoulies, a strange choice because it's actually one of the weaker titles in the collection. Kameo: Elements of Power stands out as a title that demonstrates the studio's versatility, even if it's not an obvious classic. One undoubted highlight is obviously the platforming perfection that comes in Banjo-Kazooie, which still holds up as an excellent puzzle platformer that'll delight returning players almost as much as it will the younger audience who'll come to it fresh (and it's a timely reminder why the Kickstarter for spiritual successor Yooka-Laylee did such good business earlier this year). Viva Piñata is another headline entry; it still stands as one of loveliest games ever made, and there's plenty to enjoy thanks to its serene atmosphere and idyllic pacing.
Perfect Dark features twice in the collection, with the original reminding why it's such a great game and a worthy follow up to Goldeneye 007 on N64, and for those who still long for that game's return, this is the closest you'll get thanks to some multiplayer maps based on those found in the Bond-themed shooter. Even if Perfect Dark Zero never quite hits the same highs as its predecessor, it's still a playable shooter that's worth revisiting if only to chart the evolution of the franchise and in doing so make you wonder if it's ever going to make a return.
The presentation is fantastic and the lineup's deep and dotted with gems and iconic characters (we've not mentioned Conker yet, and now's a great time to do so), but what about the extras? You can now load up save states from the older games, which is a nice touch. There's a handy rewind feature that allows you ten seconds of grace; a great help during some of the more punishing moments the collection has to offer. There's a collection of mini-games called Snapshots that let you (in a style reminiscent of an NES Remix) play score challenges based on short sections of some of the older arcade titles. There's also a stamp system that links the games together very nicely, and as you play more you'll unlock additional content, offering plenty of reasons for dedicated fans to dig deep into the back-catalogue (that said, we'd have preferred to have had this content available from the start).
As far as a negatives go, we encountered a few stability issues with a couple of the games, moments where the action would freeze and we'd need to restart the client, but this only happened a couple of times. Another concern came via the emulation, as there's occasional slowdown - although it's nothing game-breaking. Elsewhere, N64 original Jet Force Gemini has a control scheme that desperately needs updating. It's also worth noting that the more recent releases aren't included in the collection in the same way as the older titles, instead they're made available thanks to the introduction of Xbox 360 back compatibility, meaning they feel more peripheral when compared to those that run direct from the main menu; they take longer to boot up and they've kept their original achievements. These are, however, minor blemishes in the grand scheme of things.
Rare Replay is a fantastic collection of games as much as it's a wonderful slice of video game history. The presentation is superb, as is the value you're getting with thirty games being offered at such a generous price. There's a couple of forgettable moments in there, but these are the exception, not the rule. There's some great titles here, and it showcases the studio's considerable talents, highlighting their output after more than thirty years in the business. It's an impressive achievement whichever way you look at it, and everyone connected to the studio should be very proud.